My memories of carnival are probably a lot different than what is shown on TV and in the news. Granted, this year there’s already been one drunken vehicle mishap through the crowd and more than a handful of street crimes but it’s really not as bad as all that. It’s…a part of what creates the rhythm of our lives and it’s more than just a big party…
The Indians are sewing on the last sequins and attaching the last feathers… The energy is vibrating with the heartbeat of drums beaten by ghosts and songs and by Indians past. The air is already moist and muggy, early spring humidity getting ready to settle in.
The streets are alive with music and laughter and the shouting of drunken men and women begging for a flash to aim their beads at. The bar doors are open and the krewes are taking their turns parading their floats and their passions through the streets. I’m not talking about the big, Quarter parade…
The true spirit of it is in all the stuff that happens on the side streets and in the hidden treasures of communities. It’s a tradition of family and festivity and long-fought battles for the reigning Indian chief. It’s all been building up for a while now, and on Fat Tuesday the spirit of true imbibing begins as the people live as gluttons, stuffing the last king cakes and shrimp and crawfish étouffée’s and REAL Po boys in their faces and pouring the last beers down their throats, ready at the end for Lent to begin.
The true spirit of carnival lives in the Tremé and on Frenchman street, in the lost taverns and gathering places where the real music and the real heart of New Orleans beats louder than the pounding steps of tourists feet down Bourbon street. It lives from Church street all the way around to Canal street in my hometown, Mobile, where Mardi Gras was born. It lives in little towns and cities up and down the southern gulf coast from Alabama through Mississippi and Louisiana and it’s my favorite holiday of the year.
Ok so maybe it’s not exactly like all that anymore, but mostly it is, and I miss it. It’s a passion. It’s a spirit. It’s a love. It’s carnival and we all get lost in it and find ourselves and our humanity and oneness in the process. There’s nothing like it in the world. Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.
All the love,